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Friday movie roundup: When franchises attack
It's not a great weekend for new movies. In fact, it's pretty awful.
The weekend's big studio openings include two sequels for movies that probably didn't need them: "Planes: Fire & Rescue" and "The Purge: Anarchy."
Because of a scheduling conflict set up by the rival studios behind those films (each wanted a screening on Tuesday night, and neither was willing to budge), The Cricket had to choose — and he chose "Planes: Fire & Rescue," the second movie in the spinoff to Pixar's "Cars" movies. This one is a skimpy story in which racer Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) trains to be a firefighting plane, battling wildfires in a national park. The visuals are good, but everything else is lackluster.
Also out from Hollywood this week is "Sex Tape," a raunchy comedy (as you'd expect from the title) that fizzles when it should spark. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, reuniting with their "Bad Teacher" director Jake Kasdan, play a married couple who decide to record a sex tape to spice up their marriage — but get more than they bargained for when the video ends up on all their friends' iPads. The laughs are scattershot, in spite of the comic chemistry between Diaz and Segel.
Also playing fairly widely is "Persecuted," a Christian-themed political thriller that's being marketed heavily on right-wing media — in part because it includes the movie debut of Fox News host Gretchen Carlson. James Remar stars as an evangelist framed for murder as part of a vast liberal conspiracy, with only his priest father (former Sen. Fred Thompson) in his corner. The confused plot and leaden dialogue is comical, regardless of how one feels about the movie's politics.
The best thing at the art houses — and, really, the only good movie opening in Utah this weekend — is "Venus in Fur," director Roman Polanski's kinky French-language adaptation of David Ives' Broadway play. Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner star as a harried playwright and the actress who will do anything to get an audition for his play. The resulting sexual gamesmanship is intriguing, even if the film sort of falls apart in the end.
"The Grand Seduction" isn't nearly as sexy as the title implies. It's an overly gentle Canadian comedy starring Brendan Gleeson as the mayor of a small Newfoundland town that is desperate for a new petrochemical factory to locate there — but to do so, they must convince a city doctor (Taylor Kitsch) to move there. The laughs are low-key, sometimes to the point of non-existence.
Lastly, there's "The Girl on the Train," a dreadful bit of film noir — about a filmmaker (Henry Ian Cusick) caught up in murderous intrigue by a mystery woman (Nicki Aycox) — that is weighted down with overcooked dialogue.